Even if you don’t drive a truck, you’ll want to know certain things about this type of vehicle so that you can stay safer on the road. This is especially true when sharing the road with semis and other large trucks that are commonly used to transport large shipments. A report issued by the American Trucking Association revealed that 80 percent of accidents involving both cars and trucks were caused by the driver of the car. This is in large part due to the fact that many car drivers are oblivious to the dangers of large trucks and the way that handling them is different from handling a car. This, combined with the natural vulnerability of being in a smaller vehicle, makes truck crashes all the more tragic as they are both more damaging and more preventable to car drivers. Here are three important things to know about trucks as a non-truck driver.
Larger Blind Spots
Like with other types of motorized vehicles, trucks have blind spots. Though they usually have larger mirrors to accommodate for their size, their length means it is harder for the truck driver to see a small car driving besides them. Ending up in one of these blind spots could put you in danger if the truck driver decides to change lanes and isn’t able to see you. Generally speaking, if you can’t see the truck’s side mirrors, the truck driver can’t see you. You should also avoid driving for an extended period alongside a truck. The right side of a truck is even more difficult for the truck driver to see than the left, as they can’t look out the window to see their blind spot on that side. The blind spots for a truck include the thirty feet behind the truck and the twenty feet right in front of it—so don’t cut in front of a truck and suddenly slow down! As trucks have to make wide turns, it’s especially dangerous to try to pass them at an intersection. You may think it is going straight, only to slam into its side as it turns. It’s best to give large trucks extra room and stay as far away from them as possible so that you don’t end up in a blind spot.
Trucks Take Longer to Stop
Since large trucks with heavy loads are so massive in size and carry so much weight, they require more roadway to stop. In fact, they may need twice as much space as a standard passenger vehicle to come to a complete stop safely. Stopping distance is made of three parts: perception distance, reaction time, and braking distance. Perception distance is how far the vehicle travels as the driver notices and predicts hazards. Reaction time is how long it takes for the driver to react, and braking distance is how long it takes to physically stop after pressing the brakes. As many truck drivers spend long stretches on the road, even up to 11 hours, they can start to deal with truck driver fatigue, which lowers their perception and reaction time. Changing lanes quickly and getting closely in front of a truck could put you in great danger if you cut things too short and the driver isn’t able to stop in time. In addition to the time it take to react, trucks take longer to brake because of brake lag. Large trucks use air brakes instead of the hydraulic brakes of most passenger vehicles, and air brakes have a lag time between when they are activated and when they start working. Semi-trucks also take a bit more time to accelerate than passenger cars, so be careful of riding too close behind them as well. It’s also important to give truck drivers time to react, so put on your turn signal earlier than you usually would and give them more time to respond and slow down in preparation.
Knowing everything there is to know about trucks as a non-truck driver could help you protect your rights if you ever need to take legal action against a trucker or their employer. Truck drivers are expected to follow additional laws of the road, and you may have a case if you get into an accident and believe that the driver violated any laws. As stated above, however, in most cases the accident was preventable and the fault of an overly hasty, impatient, or oblivious car driver.
Tire Blowouts Can be Dangerous
Some large trucks have as many as 18 wheels, and although it is uncommon, these wheels could blow out suddenly without giving you much time to react. Even though many reputable truck body parts retailers sell truck tires that are made to be durable, blowouts can still occur if the tires have not been maintained properly. Experiencing a tire blowout may cause the driver of the truck to lose control and collide into other nearby vehicles. The material from the blown-out tire itself could pose additional hazards if pieces break off from the wheel. Most trucking companies follow strict regulations on the upkeep of their trucks, but accidents and oversights still occur, and it’s important to stay safe. Make sure to stay aware of your surroundings and of the dangers and abilities of large vehicles. You can stay safer on the road by being aware of the factors that may cause an accident with a truck. Knowing what to watch for when sharing the road with trucks can give you a greater sense of empowerment behind the wheel.